(Orem, Utah) — One of Shakespeare’s most popular comedies, “Much Ado About Nothing,” could be redubbed “Much Ado About Something” when Grassroots Shakespeare presents the Bard’s famous play at SCERA Center for the Arts Jan. 16-19.
The “something” comes from the cast of players who speak to the audience and encourage the crowd to speak up and join them in the festivities. Patrons can freely participate in the story (boo, cheer, etc) and the actors react and respond, making the experience a bit of Shakespearean improv. In doing this, Grassroots creates an intimate, evolving and accessible theatrical experience.
Audience participation is a hallmark of the 10-year-old performing troupe. Another trademark is that it has no director in the conventional sense. Typically, the ensemble selects who will play what roles and they direct the production as a group. The Grassroots production team serve as guides. Most known for their casual outdoor performances in parks around the state, this winter staging is a rare opportunity to see the popular group indoors.
“Much Ado” can be seen Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Reserved-seat tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for children 3-11 and seniors 65 and older. Also offered are $6 tickets for non-profit, school and church groups. Tickets are available at scera.org, by calling 801-225-ARTS, in person at the main office at SCERA Center (745 South State, Orem), open 10am-6pm weekdays, or at the door 30 minutes prior to each performance.
“We have assembled this show in a more traditional way than we often do, because we held auditions and cast parts,” says Nick Grossaint, artistic director. “Typically, we audition and call people back and the potential cast members perform for each other and vote on whom gets what part. This time, as usual, we let the cast direct in this show, with the production team guiding the company. We put the show together in two weeks and use judicious edits, so the show never exceeds an hour and a half.”
The company has a staff that oversees the company, and in addition to Nick Grossaint, it includes Aubrey Wilde as managing director; Drew Wilde as marketing director; Brooke Bolick as director of development, and Daniel Anderson, costume supervisor. Their emphasis is on original interpretations with strict adherence to Shakespeare’s original text while still making it enjoyable and understandable for children, teens and adults.
According to Grossaint, the company’s version of “Much Ado About Nothing” will emphasize finding relationships that have been around all along. It contains several paired relationships, including Beatrice and Benedick, who bicker famously, and insist that they will never marry, but are tricked into confessing their love for each other. Another couple is also part of the story, as Claudio is tricked into rejecting Hero at the altar on the erroneous belief that she has been unfaithful.
“Beatrice and Benedick’s relationship still resonates with modern audiences,” he says. “They are cutting, silly and sarcastic, yet it is clear there is depth in their interchanges. It is not surprising they are one of the best-known and beloved couples in Shakespearian literature.”
Grassroots follows much of the Bard’s original staging techniques and retains Shakespeare’s beautiful language and witty story. And as with all great “rom-coms,” Shakespeare made sure this romantic comedy has a happy ending – and some celebratory dancing.
by APRIL BERLIN
Operations Manager/Marketing & Development
SCERA Center for the Arts
745 South State, Orem, UT 84058